Investing in yourself – should I see a psychotherapist, and will it be a good experience?

There are many reasons why people turn to psychotherapy. You may want to consider this when undergoing a major life change – moving, career change, a new romantic relationship or bereavement. Talking through your experience with a qualified professional will help relieve stress, help you clarify your position and experience a whole myriad of feelings in a safe environment. The earlier you start investing in yourself, the better results in the long run. It’s like learning a language or an instrument early on in life – most accomplished in these fields report they first engaged in their chosen discipline in early childhood and believe this to be the reason they’ve achieved outstanding results.

At the beginning of the therapeutic process, your counsellor will ask you to specify your goals of treatment to help you clarify your position and an intention you will both travel towards. Acquisition of self – knowledge and subsequent progress begin when we stop feeling under pressure to feel better. Heaviness which may be accompanying us by the time we access therapeutic help may seem to be attached to one issue or several. The counsellor’s job is to help you discover patterns of behaviour you tend to follow and establish a sense of control necessary for you to make decisions which are right for you.

Similarly, while the goals of therapy for each individual client are entirely bespoke, I hear ‘happiness’ as the most expected factor during the first sessions for many. As we begin to clarify what this would constitute, it is important to understand that ultimate joy is not something therapy can provide per se because it’s entirely arbitrary and fleeting. Once we gain what we were initially hoping for it will dissipate, creating way for our next goal; it’s impossible to be continuously happy. Particularly if by ‘happiness’ we envisage the absence of emotions we label as negative; anger, sadness or pain. Human beings have been equipped with a wide range of feelings for a reason. Let’s consider pain as a necessary tool for survival. I often refer to this in sessions with clients who say they wish they were able to delete pain from their experiences altogether, using an analogy of the hot stove versus human hand. Understandably, if we weren’t alarmed by the sharp feeling of pain we receive when touching a burning surface, we would most likely leave our palm pressed against it. We wouldn’t be able to recognise the danger involved which could result in severe consequences, including loss of life.

Psychological pain works similarly; it prevents us from developing further turmoil and warns us against dangerous situations we would otherwise put ourselves through. Our ability to identify pain serves as an internal cue to counteract it and to be able to make choices, equipped with self – awareness and compassion.

‘What if I change too much and start seeing more issues around me than I originally did?’

Good therapy won’t create additional problems for you to deal with but will enable you to become a lot more proficient in recognising and understanding desirable and unwanted behaviours – both yours and of those around you. You will gain the skills to identify the source of your distress a lot more quickly, authentically dealing with issues one by one (and not avoiding them, like before). You will become aware of choices in how you enter and maintain your relationships; both professional and personal. You will learn to identify and communicate your feelings with others and feel more connected with yourself and others you choose to invite into your world.